Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of the five most frequent psychiatric diseases. It is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the 20 most disabling diseases.

It is a neurological problem that results in an anxiety disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts; recurrent and persistent fixed ideas that generate restlessness, fear, anxiety or apprehension.

These obsessive ideas, in addition, are expressed in multiple ways and are able to cause compulsive behaviors in order to calm the anxiety that they generate. This then becomes rituals or exaggerated reactions of resistance to one’s own obsessive ideas.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) usually begins to manifest during childhood or adolescence. Its evolution is usually progressive, although it can also appear suddenly due to stress or to a specific event that acts as a trigger.

It is considered as a chronic disorder, and the total vanishing of symptoms only occurs in 20% of cases.

Obsessive thoughts can be of different types:

  • Impulses, which are characterized by being aggressive and causing an irrational fear of causing any kind of injury to the closest people around you.
  • Fears or phobias usually focused on the fear of being contaminated by touching anything or being touched by someone,
  • the obsession with physical defects that damage their body image, or hypochondriacally attitudes.
  • Ideas, which are manifested by an obsession with order, cleanliness, the passing of time, etc.
  • Doubts that lead them to check everything repeatedly to avoid problems or catastrophes: the house lock, the gas tap, the windows, the light.

These obsessive thoughts, in turn, generate in the person suffering from them a defensive reaction that translates into compulsions. Thus, they engage in repetitive acts whose purpose is to avoid the consequences of the thoughts themselves.

They may recognize that those acts are absurd acts, but if they do not do them, their anxiety increases.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

The Symptoms Of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder -OCD

  • Uncertainty: this comes with great difficulties when facing unexpected situations or unfolding in ambiguous situations.
  • Over-estimation of the threat: the probability of a catastrophe is magnified.
  • Perfectionism: errors are not tolerated and everything has to be perfect, so things are checked over and over again.
  • Excessive responsibility: rules and behavior patterns are built based on the responsibility to always do the right thing and that is put into practice when specific circumstances occur.
  • Beliefs and thoughts: the importance of one’s thoughts and especially their meaning is magnified, which is none other than the one he attributes to them. They need to control their thoughts so that they cannot think of certain things.
  • The rigidity of ideas: immovable ideas, without paying attention to any argument that may modify them, as a means to acquire the security.

Causes of OCD

The causes of OCD are not well known. However, there are different factors that may intervene in the development of this psychiatric disease, and such have been identified.

From a biological perspective, it has been found that people who suffer from it have alterations of the frontal lobe of the brain and serotonin secretion.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved in the regulation of mood, aggressiveness, and impulsiveness. It also modulates the transmission of information from one neuron to another; a process that in people with OCD develops more slowly than in normal people.

It is also known that there are genetic factors that may result in the development of OCD, although the way in which they are transmitted is unknown.

Finally, it must also be taken into account that there are specific events or situations in the life of a person that can act as triggers. They can be:

  • illnesses of a family member,
  • the death of a loved one,
  • a separation or divorce,
  • a very  rigid experience during childhood,
  • some trauma, etc.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Treatment of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

Treatment of OCD can be effectively achieved in 75% of cases with adequate treatment that generally includes the use of psychotropic drugs and psychotherapy, although in very severe cases it may be necessary to resort to other techniques, such as neurosurgery, also called psychosurgery.

Drugs To Treat OCD

The finding that serotonin secretion is altered in patients with OCD have opened an important route for pharmacological treatment.

Currently, the drugs of choice are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), among which are fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and sertraline.

Around 80% of patients with OCD show some type of response to drug treatment. However, only in half of them have there been a clear remission of symptoms and the decrease in frequency and intensity of both obsessive thoughts and compulsions.

However, it should be noted that although these drugs are generally well-tolerated, they should not be administered at high doses and for a long time. Also, improvement may take a few weeks to come about.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Using Psychotherapy As A Treatment Of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Behavioral therapy techniques have been especially effective in people with OCD who manifest the disease with compulsions. With this type of therapy, the patient is helped to face the phobia (idea, situation or object) that he fears, as well as to avoid the response, behavior or ritual he adopts to defend himself against that fear.

If the patient’s problem is more of obsessive thoughts, then cognitive therapy may be the most appropriate option since it is based on the fact that those thoughts are not the problem; all people can have them at some time. But it is the perception of a patient that these thoughts contain danger and are responsible for what can happen; thus, they try to do something to feel safe and prevent it from happening.

Responding To Treatment Of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

There are a number of factors or characteristics of each patient that can make the response to treatment better or worse. However, failure to respond to treatment usually occurs:

  • in patients who do not comply with the therapist’s indications,
  • in those who have depression or associated severe anxiety, as well as
  • when alcohol or drugs are consumed,
  • in those who have a low IQ or present personality alterations or difficulties for relationships with other people.


The information provided by this post about the obsessive-compulsive disorder cannot, in any way, replace a direct health care service, nor should it be used for the purpose of establishing a diagnosis, or choosing a treatment in particular cases.

In this service no recommendation will be made, explicitly or implicitly, on drugs, techniques, products, etc … this will be cited for informational purposes only.

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